Letter: Council followed charter in approving raises

Posted

To the editor:
After reading Mrs. McDougall’s Letter to the Editor a couple of weeks ago, I decided to read the Town Charter and confirm for myself what she has said. In case you missed it, she said that the budget was worked on by the Town Council in a budget meeting counter to the process as laid out in the charter.
As the readers may recall, this is the 1st year we do not have a Town Financial Meeting. I believe that to be a mistake, but that’s what we voted for and so I accept it. Instead of a Financial Meeting, we opted to put the Town Council solely in charge of the budget, with public hearings and a petition process for citizens to voice their opinion.

I was not at the meeting. However, after reading the 2 Letters to the Editor on the subject and speaking directly to Mr. Stanley, what took place is what is described in the charter.

According to the Charter, the Town Council has the ability to make any changes to the budget at the public hearing that was scheduled for April 17, 2017 even if no petitions are brought forward by the public. The budget process outlined in Sec. 18.07 of the new charter includes:

(a) an initial public hearing;
(b) preparation of a proposed budget by the Town Manager;
(c) presentation to the Town Council;
(d) public workshops on the proposed budget;
(e) approval of a preliminary budget by the Town Council;
(f) petitions to modify the budget, if any;
(g) public workshop on the preliminary budget and modifications approved by the
Council, if any, and
(h) final budget approval by the Town Council.

The Town Council to that point had only voted on a preliminary budget. The process during the last meeting was at a point where the preliminary budget still required a public hearing and the final budget was not yet approved. Under Sec. 18.17, “following the public hearing, the Town Council shall, no later than May 1, complete its deliberations on the budget for the next fiscal year, make any final changes in the budget it may deem advisable, and give final approval to said budget by a vote of the majority of all the members of the Town Council.” That means the Town Council has the right to alter the budget at any time until the final vote to approve the budget was taken.

The recent 4 to 1 vote was not only proper but just. The council’s decision to increase the salaries of the Director of Public Works. Foreman of Public Works, the Police Chief and Fire Chief stemmed from debates that took place over the course of the entire budget process. The vote was simply an effort to ensure parity. Ultimately the council must make sure that all employees are treated fairly, especially regarding status or pay.

However, the real issue with the final budget meeting was not the vote taken. Instead it was the lack of leadership from Mr. Thompson and Mr. DePasquale. They were elected to office 3 years ago when the new contract was negotiated. They knew the contract extended the hours of town hall employees, and as such, they were empowered to compensate these 4 over the last three years. They did not.

I’m not sure what budget process Mrs. McDougall foresaw, but what took place can easily be interpreted as what is described in the Charter.

Mark Smiley
14 Evie Dr.
Mr. Smiley is chairman of the Warren Republican Town Committee.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.